The Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) is a not for profit organization to empower and support all Indigenous women and their families in the province of Ontario through research, advocacy, policy development and programs that focus on local, regional and provincial activities. Our vision is to be a unified voice for equity, equality and justice for Indigenous women through cultural restoration within and across Nations.
Established in 1971, ONWA delivers culturally enriched programs and services to Indigenous women and their families regardless of their status or locality. We are committed to providing services that strengthen communities and guarantee the preservation of Indigenous culture, identity, art, language and heritage. Ending violence against Indigenous women and their families and ensuring equal access to justice, education, health services, environmental stewardship and economic development, sit at the cornerstone of the organization. ONWA insists on social and cultural well–being for all Indigenous women and their families, so that all women, regardless of tribal heritage may live their best life.
ONWA is committed to using a human rights framework for our work, using as our foundation the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. There are a number of specific articles within the UNDRIP that apply specifically to Indigenous women’s agencies that provide women with a rights based framework;
Article 19 reads:
States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.
Article 22 reads:
- Particular attention shall be paid to the rights and special needs of indigenous elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities in the implementation of this Declaration
- States shall take measures, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, to ensure that indigenous women and children enjoy the full protection and guarantees against all forms of violence and discrimination
Article 23 reads:
Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for exercising their right to development. In particular, indigenous peoples have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions.
Indigenous women must be supported through their own institutions to achieve equity and equality, as Indigenous women continue to experience systemic discrimination based on colonialist frameworks and continue to be targeted individually and collectively through all forms of violence including lateral violence that is further perpetuated by lack of capacity and support. Indigenous women will always lack capacity as a result of the amount of violence that has been directed at the women from all sectors (legal/policy/government/community) for multiple generations.
Indigenous women rely on their resiliency and strength to move forward and must have their traditional roles reinstated and honoured as community leaders in order to achieve reconciliation.
As an affiliate of the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) and as an Indigenous Provincial Territorial Organization (PTO), ONWA encourages the participation of Indigenous women in the development of federal, provincial, municipal/local government policies that impact their lives and ensures that Indigenous women are at key government tables.
There are currently 49 membership organizations in ONWA: 10 of these membership agencies are incorporated Chapters that provide community services and an additional 39 Traditional Indigenous Grassroots Women’s Councils that ensure that there is a place for Indigenous women in the community to address issues and concerns. The ONWA Board of consists of sixteen members: four Directors, one of which is a Youth Director, from each of our four regions. Our Grandmother’s Council, comprised of one Grandmother from each region, provides good guidance for all our deliberations.
In addition to the head office located at Fort William First Nation, there are nine satellite offices located across the province that provide proven, culturally sensitive, holistic services through numerous programs in order to meet the needs of Indigenous women and their families. ONWA also has an established Research and Policy Department that focuses on influencing legislative change to address the systemic barriers that Indigenous women face. ONWA’s membership continues to grow as other Indigenous Women’s Agencies from across the province are submitting applications for new membership regularly with ONWA. As a result ONWA will ensure expansion of its services in order to meet the needs of the added membership agencies and locations.
Click here to read our Strategic Picture (2016 – 2021).